Cisco Connects Cowboy Stadium for the Ultimate Fan Experience

By John Rice

The new Cowboy Stadium in Dallas is immersed in a “fan-facing” experience, created by Cisco Connected Sports technologies. At a press conference at the stadium yesterday, Cisco CEO/Chairman John Chambers and Cowboys owner/General Manager Jerry Jones outlined the installation.

“Our fans are really going to have a sensory experience here,” said Jones.

At the heart of the experience are nearly 3,000 individually addressable IP HD television displays controlled by Cisco’s StadiumVision and deployed through a project with AT&T. Each display is individually controlled, or they can be grouped, for instantaneous updates or changes.

Although Cisco installed StadiumVision in the new Yankee Stadium and the recently refurbished Kansas City Royals’ Kaufmann Stadium, the Cowboy Stadium system represents the first football-stadium implementation. It is also the largest Cisco StadiumVision deployment to date.

At the press conference, Chambers and Jones, along with Cisco SVP David Holland and Cowboys Head of Technology Pete Walsh, described the system as one that will dramatically impact the fan experience while providing new revenue opportunities for the stadium.

“We want our fans to experience things at our stadium that they can’t do at home,” explained Jones.

Cisco’s Holland concurred: “Make no mistake about it, we are in competition with the couch.”

The venue’s TV monitors can carry game action at concession stands and in walkways, as well as offer such content as weather reports, trivia, and news headlines. In the facility’s 300 luxury suites, visitors can customize the screens by selecting video options via touchscreen IP phones.

According to Holland, StadiumVision allows the venue to “customize parts of the arena, providing branding opportunities and creating the ultimate fan experience” while offering additional revenue opportunities. The central control of the monitors, connected via what Walsh describes as a “high-magnitude video and data highway,” also allows in-game or event changes and updates as well as reconfiguring the stadium’s overall look and feel depending on the event.

For example, StadiumVision allows instantaneous changes of displays. For NFL games, where alcohol sales are prohibited after the third quarter of a game, signage at concession areas can be changed to remove beer and other alcoholic beverages from the menu as the fourth quarter begins.

Similarly, the entire look and feel of the stadium can be changed to reflect different events. When the Jonas Brothers perform at the stadium this Saturday night, for example, menus and concessions will promote entirely different offerings.

Jones stresses that the stadium will be used for much more than Cowboys football, including concerts, special events, and high school football. StadiumVision will allow complete “rebranding” of the venue for, say, a Friday-night high school football game, followed by a Saturday college game, then a Sunday Cowboys game, and a concert on Monday. The stadium has already been confirmed as the site of Super Bowl XLV in 2011, the 2010 NBA All Star Game, 2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball, the annual AT&T Cotton Bowl, and numerous other high school and college football games and concerts.

Jones observed that Cowboy Stadium “could have been built for 75% of what we spent. The reason we spent the rest was the ‘wow’ factor.”

Chambers believes that the current implementation of StadiumVision is just the beginning of exploiting the system’s capabilities. The two Major League Baseball locations are “using the technology in ways we hadn’t anticipated,” he reported. He expects future expansion to integrate with mobile devices in the stadium. Estimates are that at least 50% of fans use some sort of mobile device at a game. “The technology will have more capabilities than we can imagine,” he said.

Cowboy Stadium, he added, “will be the model not just for the next decade but for the next 50 years.”

Jones is already expecting one additional benefit. Earlier this week, Cowboy players, their wives, and families were given an advance tour of the facilities. “I expect them to play up to the level of the stadium,” he concluded with a smile.